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The first line of defense against senior fraud is to remember your ABC: Always Be Careful!
Financial scams specifically targeting seniors rank among the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. Overall, some 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. As the number of seniors in the country increases, so will the number of scams meant to defraud them of their money.
Con artists are attracted to seniors as targets for several reasons: they suspect seniors have a significant amount of money hidden in their bank accounts, they hope to prey on a senior’s perceived gullibility and they hope to use seniors’ lack of familiarity with new technology – such as the Internet – against them.
It’s not uncommon for financial scams to go unreported and they are often difficult or impossible to prosecute, making it a low-risk crime. But the effects can be devastating to seniors and their families, depriving them of necessary assets with little or no time to recoup such losses.
The most common type of scam used against seniors is a telemarketing scam. Studies have shown that false telemarketers try to direct anywhere from 56 to 80 percent of their calls at older Americans. Telemarketing scams range from offers of free prizes and low-cost vitamins to inexpensive vacations, investment opportunities, charitable donations and even bogus bill collectors or scammers posing as agents of governmental organizations like the Internal Revenue Service.
How NOT To Be Scammed:
- If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re offered an “incredible deal” over the phone, ask to see it in writing.
- No government agency – such as the IRS – and no reputable business will ever call you on the phone and demand personal information. Never give out this information unless you are the one who initiated the call.
- If a caller says you need to pay in advance for something, or says you need to give your credit card information or Social Security number, tell the caller you don’t give out personal information over the phone. Never pay in advance for any services. Pay only after the service is delivered.
- If you’ve never heard of the company or organization before, ask for more information. Legitimate organizations will be happy to comply.
- If you’re offered a “free prize” but told you have to make a payment for “taxes,” don’t believe it.
- If you're offered an investment opportunity, insist on taking time to think it over. Discuss it with a trusted financial adviser, family member or friend.